This week I have my final reflection meeting with the facilitators of the CNYLDP program at Fulton. In preparation for this meeting, I want to write down a few thoughts about my growth and progress this year:
Leadership Project: I might have been too ambitious with this project. There were ideas to create video libraries and have more in-depth posts. Now I reflect on this, that will be next year’s goal. This year, we have established a strong social media presence with our stakeholders and have staff buy-in
EDL 533: Communication is key. Without it, how can you even begin to succeed? I have become more aware of the importance of clear messages and creating a message geared toward the group that will receive it. Listen to understand, then respond.
EDL 640: This class has helped me define my moral compass more thoroughly, as well as to stand up for the right thing for my students and school community. There are more critical issues than I have realized that are part of the job every day, and it’s important to look at all sides of a picture, but remain objective.
EDL 515: Show me the data. Let the data speak for itself. I find myself saying these phrases when questions are asked. This class has made me interested in possibly pursuing a data coordinator internship. After all, won’t my library and information science degree come in handy for this?
Here are some ways I have taken on new leadership roles recently and into next year:
- Help transition the elementary library team from 4-6 fixed schedule to flex. I have been extremely vocal to gather information and time to meet with teams to make this transition successful next year
- Asked to be part of the School Library System merger meetings between OCM BOCES and Citi Oswego. Serve as one of the Oswego librarian reps
- Taken a more active role in CNYSL (CNY School Librarians) as the Website Chair
- Facilitating and providing more PD sessions to librarians in summer 2017
After this first year, I have reflected on what possible internships I might want to pursue down the road, which might turn into the next phase of my career. Here are my top thoughts so far:
- Data coordinator
- Tech director or tech integration specialist
- Director of a School Library System
At our last class, we listened to a presentation about making data more user-friendly. After some reflection, I appreciated how I could incorporate the “I Notice…I Wonder” exercise while viewing data. This strategy is used with students in library special when we look at a text or a primary/secondary source, but I did not think about using it with adults.
When this strategy is used it can help people take a step back and look at the data. Instead of diving right into an action plans or solutions, this reflection can help teachers understand what they look at. You can notice trends, differences and formulate questions. This open-ended exercise can help teachers look closely at information to brainstorm ideas or thoughts. They can look at patterns, or items that are similar or dissimilar.
When the 30-week toolbox becomes available on Sharepoint, I want to use strategies learned from the past class. I hope that “I Notice…I Wonder” will provide clearer insights into the 30-week data. My goal is to make the next reflection a summary of my experience.
Recently, I found this infographic from Butler/Till that explains the difference between a leader and a boss. This image was eye-opening for me as I began to associate the qualities of a good leader that I needed to continue to develop. I appreciated how this image could be used for any culture, public sector or private sector. I do not want to be a boss or an authority figure, but a leader that encourages and inspires my colleagues and students to have a growth mindset.
A boss is one-sided, and “it’s my way or the highway,” while a leader has an effective team that assists with driving decisions. An effective leader inspires trust and communicates fully with the team. Coming from a family of educators and being in education for almost four years, I have done copious amounts of listening and observation of my surroundings during my time at graduate school and educational career.
The biggest difference I noticed in this image included the concept of commands versus asks. With asking, a leader communicates the why of something with the stakeholder. Workers must be able to trust their leader and not be afraid of going to them with questions or concerns. In turn, leaders must wholly communicate and encourage people to grow; if these items are not part of a culture (whether it’s business, education, public sector or private sector) the environment will turn toxic, negative and people will be afraid and distrusting.
In a recent study group, I was directed toward a documentary from ABC News. Strawberry Mansion High School was considered one of the most dangerous schools in America. Fights, behavior and poverty rates ran high. The school had six months to prove it could turn itself around to stay open. The assistant superintendent could not find a principal to handle the school effectively, so she volunteered to be the principal. She cared about the students so much, that she wanted this task.
After watching the documentary, I took some time to reflect about why this person would go into a dangerous place to try and overcome a huge obstacle. Everything came down to caring for the students, doing what is best for the students. In the clip, the principal tells students she cares about them and loves them. The students want to learn and have a safe environment, but the school needed a leader to bring about this change.
What a task this leader had to tackle. Being a leader, there are times that situations are difficult to handle, but leaders need to take a step back and think about this: What is best for students? That should be the question and statement that drives all decision-making.
It’s about the relationships with students, and having students know that they are cared for and are safe. We might not know a student’s environment outside of school, and that is why it is so important to for all teachers, including teacher-leaders to:
- Treat each child uniquely and respectfully
- Put students first
- Leave personal things at the door and try your best to remain positive
- Be honest, kind and admit when you are wrong.
In Chapter 2, the authors discuss what happens on an assessment and why. Now that the assessments have been created and administered, it’s time to delve into the data to see progress of students and make an action plan for re-teaching or enrichment. To begin, a simple and useful data template is needed before diving into the data. Items to include are names, question numbers and types (open-ended, multiple choice, etc), standard addressed and the percentage of correct and incorrect responses of individual students and the class as a whole. If each teacher has this report ready, they can compare what questions were answered incorrectly, thus understanding what standard or skill must be retaught. When teachers learn what standard must be reviewed, students can be grouped into skill levels for direct instruction. Students that have generally answered all the questions correctly can be placed into enrichment or extension groups. If teacher had most students answer one question correctly, while the other teachers had most students answer it incorrectly, they can collaborate with that one teacher to see how he or she taught the skill. That strategy can be used by others to see if it makes a difference to help the students master that specific standard.
During the data meetings, there should be communication between the building leader and teachers involved with the assessment. Results from interim assessments are discussed and analyzed. Meetings do not always have to be lead by an administrator, but can be conducted by instructional coaches or teacher-leaders. Recommendations to conduct a successful data meeting included:
- All members of the meeting must come prepared with appropriate data and materials
- Celebrate successes or highlight positive changes
- Continually go back to specific questions on the test and ask why a student got a question wrong
- Create an action plan to help students learn the material that must be retaught and make sure teachers are held accountable for this action plan
In Chapter 1 of “Driven by Data,” the authors discuss the essential building blocks of effective assessments. They include:
- Assessments must be the starting point
- Assessments must be transparent
- Assessments must be common
- Assessments must be interim
Without the above items as a strong foundation, effective assessments will be difficult to achieve.
To begin, assessments must be written before the start of a lesson or unit. This way, teachers can plan lessons that address standards that will be assessed. If teachers are aware of the skills that will be assessed, they observe how students interact with the material and adjust the lessons as needed for students to learn the skill. Next, assessments must be transparent. Students must have clear expectations of what they will need to know to be successful in the classroom. This practice of disseminating expectations can include learning targets and I Can statements. Communication with families about students’ learning processes and the curriculum sets a plan in motion to help students take ownership of their learning and know what is expected of them in regard to assessments. Students must know the purpose and the why they learn a skill. Another piece to effective assessments includes ones that are common. These should be the same across classrooms and even different schools within a district. Common levels of mastery will be similar across classrooms, and data-driven meetings will be meaningful and productive if teachers break down skills on common assessments to assist students where areas may be weak at the moment. Lastly, assessments must be interim, meaning they should be given to students quarterly or every six to eight weeks. If teachers go all year without assessing students, they will not be aware of targets or skills students have not mastered. Interim assessments provide teachers a snapshot of where students currently are, and make a plan for where they need to be by the end of the year to meet standards.
During my first year in the district, I participated in a Drive By Data study group. The information was helpful and I have recalled resources to use for this CNYLDP course, but I still feel my program is not driven by data.
As an elementary library team, we have worked hard to pull essential standards from the Information Fluency Continuum. We have to go through 7 grade levels, and have not completed this process yet. It feels until we have the essential standards for each grade level, that we cannot create common assessments or have data-driven meetings. We have not had the opportunity to have full-day collaborations or meetings like grade-level teams or special-education teams. With all of us in different schools, it is difficult to meet. To combat these obstacles, however, we have tried to have monthly virtual PLC meetings and connect though Google Suite to pull curriculum ideas and standards. We are on the start of this journey and will complete it in the end, but the road getting there has been arduous. I remind myself that every little bit counts and we will have a full curriculum, essential standards and common assessments eventually.
At the last class, we completed a poverty simulation. Everyone was split into different families, with scenarios of which to participate. Expectations were clear and we all had to be active participants in the project.
I was part of the Collins family, and played Ernest. This character lost his job as an electrician and was on track to complete his BA. His wife had a full-time job at a bank, and the couple had three children. Also, Ernest’s nephew from Texas, lived with them. He was seventeen.
My group read over the scenarios and we carefully budgeted our money. The first week, everything seemed to go OK. However, we accidentally left our money on the table, and $500 of that was stolen by different people in the room. The loss of money did not allow us to pay bills and unexpected emergencies that occurred. We had to go on a payment plan with the bill department, and by the next month, we owed hundreds of dollars.
Overall, the poverty simulation allowed me to think about what many of my families might experience daily. Emotions that ran through me included frustration, hopelessness and anxiety. Toward the end of class, we had a group discussion where I reflected on the experience and how to move forward. One person mentioned this: what is one thing I can do tomorrow to help a student, to bring hope? At times, school might be the only safe-haven in a student’s life and what can I do to provide that refuge? I’ve thought about some ideas, and it’s now to go forth and continue to do good for my community.
During the winter break, I delved more into the text for the critical issues course. After completing the book, there were some questions I had:
- To what extent do administrators handle critical issues daily? The case studies in the book seemed very extreme and how could one person not tackle the issue with common sense?
The case studies brought up a number of topics that were and were not familiar to me. I have thought about how I would react to the situations and reviewed questions posed at the end of each case study. I pondered the issue at hand, and everything went back to this: What is the process that will provide a safe learning environment for students?
One case study that made me really reflect was 3.5: Teacher With A Handgun-The Right To Bear Arms, Protecting Students And School Policy. I can sympathize (not empathize) with Jenna’s fear, abusive past and concern with lack of proper safety features in the town and school. I was appalled that the administrator appeared to attempt to cover up the situation, as well as surprised how vague the policies about firearms on school grounds were and Jenna’s belief it was her duty to protect her students with a firearm so much she would have it in school if a situation was that dire.
Days after reading this case study, I still think about it. There are various factors that must be addressed:
- Policy of firearms on and off school property. This needs to be reviewed and/or revised and information disseminated to the appropriate stakeholders
- Poor infrastructure of the buildings: Can anything be done to make the buildings more secure in case of an emergency?
- Moral compass of the administrator (lack-there-of)
Reflecting back on 2016 with reading, I am pleased of the progress that was made this year. I looked back to Goodreads at the 2016 goal of 60 books, finishing with 114 books. Many books this year included series and stand-alone books for middle-grade fiction.
At the beginning of the summer, I found myself in a reading slump. I was tired of reading elementary and middle-school aged books. I discovered an Elizabethan mystery series, YA and adult fiction books the second half of the year.
Looking at goals at the beginning of 2016, I did not accomplish many:
- Finish Anne of Green Gables Series: I finished books 4-6, but attempted books 7/8. I do not care for these as much as they do not heavily feature Anne, but her children.
- Finish A Series of Unfortunate Events series. I listened to these books on audiobook from March to September on my drives to and from work.
- Read The Peculiar Series again by Ransom Riggs. None.
- Read a classic book a month (will start with The BFG and finish Anne of Windy Poplars). Started strong, but finished weak.
- Blog about my reading progress each month. Did not do this
Highlights of the year included:
- Audiobooks to listen to and from my commutes to work
- Graphic novels. For the longest time, I thought I hated graphic novels, but I have come to enjoy a well-written book and appreciate the genre more this year
- Leigh Bardugo’s books. Need I say more?
Top 10 Books of 2016 Read
- Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
- Ghosts by Raina Telgemeir
- These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
- Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire
- Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
- Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
- Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
- Heartless by Marissa Meyer
- Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
- Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
(Top three included These Shallow Graves, Every Heart A Doorway and Six of Crows)
My goals for 2017 include:
- Read 70 books
- Re-read Harry Potter series
- Finish 2 series currently reading
- Read all of Roald Dahl’s books
- Read and finish 2 new series
Last week, I had my formal observation. The process is a bit less stressful this year, as there is only one formal observation to prepare for. It’s beneficial it’s completed in the first few months of school so I can implement feedback sooner in the school year.
During the conference with my administrator, I shared my learning style: I like to follow rules and know exactly what is expected of me for a situation. When this information was shared, I believe the feedback was more relevant and meaningful because it was tailored to meet my needs at the time. After some good conversation, the feedback was received. The post-conference occurred this morning and I have many ideas swimming in my head right now. I will reflect on her feedback for a few days and move forward from there.
Additionally, I met with my communication teammate this week. We reflected on the past few months, and besides easy-to-fix mistakes, we are pleased with the communication committee and plan to move forward. We discussed some simple changes. Also, with feedback from presentations at class in November, we discussed how to encourage teachers to have more ownership and participation in the communication process. We came up with some ideas:
- Encouraging teachers to create videos and send to us for distribution to the appropriate networks (teachers already submit photos to the building shared photo on the server)
- Have a dedicated share-out time at curriculum meetings where each grade-level rep will highlight events, curriculum or projects
We plan to implement these items at our next meeting in mid-December. I am currently on working pulling first quarter data from 2016-17 for the Facebook page. My goal is to have that done by December.